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Petteri Orpo, the minister of the interior, visiting a reception centre in Turku’s Pansio. Orpo is shaking hands with Sarmad Mahmad who has travelled to Finland from Iraq with his family by crossing the sea, walking and by car. Picture: Jussi Vierimaa / SPR

Starting from Tuesday September 22, the asylum seekers entering the country from Sweden to Tornio in northern Finland will be transferred to a registration centre. The asylum seekers are prohibited to continue to other parts of the country without registering first because Finland is tightening its border control due to the influx of refugees, which currently amounts to hundreds per day.

Previously, the asylum seekers were able to jump on the bus or train directly from the border, and travel from Tornio to the southern parts of the country and seek shelter from a reception centre and travel freely in the country. But now, the police has sent more resources to northern Finland, especially at the border of Tornio region, including an asylum investigation team consisting of dozens of police officers, who will escort the asylum seekers to the proper address for registretation. The border guard has also stepped in to deploy patrols to the area.

“The situation is extremely exceptional, and the government will monitor it very closely,” said prime minister Juha Sipilä at a press conference on Friday, “to me it seems that the situation caused by the flow of refugees might be even worse than our economic situation. The authorities have carried out enhanced surveillance at the border for several weeks now, and they will further reinforce their actions.”

The registration centre is located in an empty school, a few hundred metres from the border. The premises can only accommodate about 200 people at a time, so the process of the registration has to be conducted swiftly. The asylum seekers can’t even visit a grocery store before being registered. After the registration, the asylum seekers will be guided to proper reception centres. This week, six new centres will be opened to meet the growing demand. Currently, there are 30 reception centres located across the country from which many are hosted by the Finnish Red Cross.

[alert type=white ]”To me it seems that the situation caused by the flow of refugees might be even worse than our economic situation.” – PM Juha Sipilä[/alert]


A room at a reception centre in Turku. Picture: Jussi Vierimaa / SPR

According to the Ministry of Interior, “When the asylum process ends, it is important to ensure that those who have been granted residence permits can get a placement smoothly and quickly. The goal is to make relocation in municipalities a controlled process based on voluntary agreements reached in advance with the local authorities.” The processing time for the applications range from one to four months. At least 10,000 immigrants will be moving to Finland’s municipalities next year.

During the first half of the year, the five most common groups of asylum seekers were people from Iraq, Albania, Somalia, Russia and Afghanistan. The residence permit was received by half of the Iraqis, Russians and Afghans; 72 per cent of the Somalis received the residence permit and none of the Albanians.

People who are granted a residence permit, who move into a municipality and become its residents are entitled to basic municipal services, such as schools and social and health care. At present, the governmental organisations are making agreements for 1,300 municipal placements a year.

For those, who do not receive a residence permit are deported with “a smooth and effective return policy,” according to the Ministry of the Interior. “All those entering the EU should be registered, and those in need of international protection and those trying to enter the EU illegally should be clearly identified. Other candidates should be returned to their countries of origin or transit without delay.” In addition, Finland welcomes the proposal to establish within the EU a common list of safe countries of origin. The Balkan countries and Turkey would be considered safe, which would allow swifter processing of asylum applications from candidates originating from these countries.

[alert type=white ]For those, who do not receive a residence permit are deported with “a smooth and effective return policy,” according to the Ministry of the Interior.[/alert]

Petteri Orpo, the minister of the interior, said in an interview for Verkkouutiset that the refugee crisis is under the control of the authorities but in the future Finland can’t receive more refugees than an allocated quota. Orpo hasn’t revealed any number for the quota – yet.

According to the calculations of the Finnish Immigration Service, Finland would in total receive 15,000 asylum seekers this year. However, the Ministry of the Interior is preparing for as much as 30, 000 asylum seekers because of the number of conflicts that have driven unprecedented numbers of people to seek safety outside of their home regions. By September 20, 12,471 asylum seekers have arrived in Finland.

On Tuesday, Orpo hosted a meeting of Nordic ministers responsible for migration and asylum affairs in Brussels. The ministers discussed the asylum situation in the Nordic countries. Orpo expressed Finland’s concern about the number of unregistered asylum seekers travelling through Denmark and Sweden to northern Finland. “It is not acceptable that people who have entered the EU illegally travel from one country to another without being registered as asylum seekers,” Orpo said in a bulletin.

Earlier in September, Orpo participated in the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels to find an agreement on the EU measures and seek how to manage the migration flow better. The commission proposed that a temporary emergency response mechanism would be used to assist Italy, Greece and Hungary. This means that those who have applied for asylum would be relocated from these countries to other EU member states. The relocation would apply to a total of 120,000 people: 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece and 54,000 from Hungary. Finland would share the burden voluntarily and would receive about 2,400 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary over the next two years.

The commission continued their discussions in Brussels on Tuesday.

Orpo said to Verkkouutiset that, if a solution is not found on a European level “we have to draw a line at the uncontrollable immigration.” There would be a certain limit which Finland would set responsibly.

“After the limit would be reached, Finland could consider closing its borders.”

From the unruly migration, that is.

Sources: HS, The Finnish Immigration Service, The Ministry of the Interior